Nights like these don't come around often. Maybe for some teams they do, but certainly not the Indiana Pacers, who have made a living this season playing games down to the wire. So getting to take in a front-to-back showcase like this is something that must be appreciated. The Pacers were truly in rare form against the Utah Jazz tonight, piecing together a first for the season, a rarity for the season, and what ended up tying the season high in margin of victory.
The Pacers shot 51.3% from the floor tonight, not only their best shooting output of the year, but their first all season above 50%. They also reached triple digits for the first time since November 21, and just the second time all season outside of overtime periods. The 20-point margin of victory ties Indiana's 103-83 victory over Dallas, all coming together for one of few truly complete efforts of the year. While Indiana was in the zone offensively, they were a big threat defensively, capitalizing on every Jazz mistake and forcing Utah into numerous situations they weren't able to succeed in, including a handful of shot clock violations.
It was a total team effort from the outset, when Roy Hibbert hit his first four field goal attempts as part of his 12 point night. But both ends of the floor were dominated by Paul George, who reached 20 points again tonight, doing so on 9-13 shooting, including what George called some "old Paul George" dunks, but also had 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
The starting unit as a whole played very well. George Hill also had 20 points on an efficient 8-13 shooting, and David West posted 13. Lance Stephenson went scoreless, but made some impressive passes and plays to put his team in solid position. The game really swung into Indiana's favor, however, when the bench came into the game, as Gerald Green hit a pair of three pointers and Tyler Hansbrough made some plays to really blow the game wide open. Utah was never able to respond after that.
Not only the bench's surprising offensive output in the first quarter, but the defensive effort the bench dug into when they went through their unsurprising struggles scoring in the second quarter, both set the tone for the lead Indiana would build, balloon up to 30 in the third quarter, and hold throughout the fourth. Green had 21 points off the bench, leading an energized second unit.
D.J. Augustin got garbage time minutes in the fourth quarter ahead of Ben Hansbrough, who was shaken up in the first half. Augustin responded with seven points on 3-4 shooting, whether a response from Augustin or simply garbage time being garbage time, it was still a solid showing from Augustin. For the Jazz, they were led by Derrick Favors off the bench with 16, a majority coming in the second half. Gordon Hayward had eight points off the Utah bench.
The Pacers dominated the paint, at one point outscoring the Jazz 34-2, eventually settling for a 52-28 advantage. Indiana's easy baskets helped them build their lead, but also the team's ability to convert on easy baskets inside was a big factor in their play tonight. They ended the night with 15 turnovers, but held the ball well in the early going, not committing their first until late in the first quarter.
Indiana had a game, but have still been playing very well lately, posting double digit victories in their last four wins. They'll look to grab their fifth win in six games when they travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers.
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